When did all start? Everything started back in 2005… Everything? Or did it all start in 2004, when I saw Erik Gandini’s Surplus and Kim Bartley and Donnacha O’Briain’s The Television will not be Televised at the Sarajevo Film Festival and thought about using the new auditorium of the Academy of Fine Arts for organizing screenings of political films. “We could call it Lens Politica”, I thought. That must be the beginning… But maybe it started before –maybe the day I got Douglas Kellner and Michael Ryan’s Camera Politica from a public library for preparing some courses, as it came to my mind when searching for a good name, as it had helped me to rethink on the political content of cinema as –paraphrasing Fredric Jameson– a “socially symbolic act”. Though actually the interest on the link between politics and cinema, as part of the culture industry, was in the background of some informal seminars we did with a professor back when I was in the university in Spain…

It seems really hard to figure out a plot line for a festival which is now turning 10 years old. But above all, what made it real was all that committed people that throughout these years turned a small educational project into a wonderful experience that has become a unique platform for discussing the role of culture within the current political, social and economical debates. Among those that have made it real during these years, I would like to underline the importance of Nina Toppila, who was involved since year one and whose role has been essential for keeping the festival alive for so long. I would like to name also the significant contribution of Hanna Eskonen, Kati Hurme, Nicolas Schevin, Mauro Fariñas, Sanna Kultanen, Adrián Aragonés, Kaisu Suopanki, Laura Gelmi, Jari Tamminen, Helena Mielonen, Susanna Okker, who were key for the development of the festival, and ask for forgiveness to all the others I’m forgetting to name in here. And of course, I couldn’t forget the wonderful guests who made the festival grow, bringing people from all sort of spectrums, such as The Yes Men, Norman Finkelstein, Erik Gandini, Danis Tanovic, Reverend Billy and Xiaolu Guo, among many others.

And why that concern for the politics of culture? Simple: because we aren’t –or want to be– idiots. And I don’t claim you can’t enjoy culture without considering its political content, but just that there’s no single social act –and any form of art is a social act in itself– without political content. And I aim here at its etymological root, as the Greek “πολιτικός” (“politikós”) referred to “of the citizens”. Thus, every matter of the “πόλις” (“pólis") was an affair of the citizens, as all of them were part of its government. These issues were “political”, in opposition to the personal or private matters, which were “ἰδιωτικός” (“idiotikós”). Those citizens that didn’t care for what happened in the “pólis" were “ἰδιώτες” (“idiotes”), which meant “private citizens” or “uncultured” –what centuries later became an “idiot”.

As simple as that, we just want to stop idiocy –even our own– by being political. That’s what Lens Politica always aimed at.

Alejandro Pedregal, Lens Politica director from 2005 until 2011.

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